I notice that you have mentioned several times that you see hints of a shame motif in Matthew… I am curious where are you seeing this? Given the time frame above a quite substantial building, rather than a “hastily built annex” could have been built. Are they those who could never attain purity because of the work they did, and so part of the “sinners”, the people of the earth, rather like the tax-collectors? Perhaps there is a marketing opportunity here…, It’s a JUDEAN house. Details here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syria_Palaestina. (rock baby Jesus) His Mother was Mary, (hands together in prayer) And the Angels did sing, (hand together in prayer) “Glory to God!” (hold up arms in praise) What can we do for you?” If Joseph did have some member of the extended family resident in the village, he was honor-bound to seek them out. Narratively, Jesus being rejected at some level even at birth is perfectly in line with his reception by Israel—they did not know the hour of their visitation. The shepherds seem to me to be in the “ordinary” group – but I don’t think we can be dogmatic about their actual economic and social status, and we need to be wary about using modern categories for what was a very different culture and class-structure. Simeon foresees this will happen (2.34), but there is nothing in these chapters to match Herod’s murderous intent. A question was asked as to why more women aren’t commenting on this blog. Im so glad I found this and I can’t wait to introduce this new information when I preach this evening. That fact that the shepherds were not quite the lowest of the low as many make them out to be, does not rule out the point that they are also slightly surprising heralds of the birth of Jesus, at least on the face of it. The most prominent use of it in the LXX is in Samuel; it’s not an especially common word, so I’d be a little wary of making too definite an argument based solely on its definition. The only reason for them to travel to Bethlehem for the census was because he had family there and if he did, the customs of first-century Palestine required him to stay with relatives and not with strangers. So where has the idea come from? He was denounced to the inquisition for his pains and reprimanded by them, though not actually burned, tortured or imprisoned as might have happened to heretics. So the notion of Bethlehem being the ancestral home and thus requiring to go there for census or taxation reasons has examples there in the region and beyond. In that case Mary would not necessarily have been ostracised and so might have been readily welcomed into the home. Much of my work is done on a freelance basis. It would be reasonable that he was in Nazareth working on the nearby rebuilding of Sephoras. And, specifically, the belief that Jesus was lonely and dejected, cast out amongst the animals and sidelined at his birth, actually seriously distorts the meaning of the birth narratives, in which (contrary to this tradition) Jesus and his birth are a powerfully disruptive force, bursting in on the middle of ordinary life and offering the possibility of its transformation. It is a complete fabrication of Western popular culture. So why has the wrong, traditional interpretation persisted for so long?  The term is rarely used in the Septuagint, which used a transliteration Land of Phylistieim (Γῆ τῶν Φυλιστιείμ) different from the contemporary Greek place name Palaistínē (Παλαιστίνη).’. We would also expect weaker gender differences in commenting where the target article is authored by a more junior person, and hence where the risks of opposing them are lower.’ People generally want to cling to what they they find comforting (familiar), especially during this difficult time we have been through over the past several months. See my other comment! Or marketed a set that more closely fits this description of Jesus birth? Instead, if Jesus comes to us, rather than us coming to him, if he visits in our very homes and comes as a surprising, disruptive, but ultimately welcome presence, one who will turn our world upside-down and change it forever, then that makes all the difference. The name of the Roman Province was Iudaea (or ‘Judea’). First, as I have commented above, there is very little suggesting in Luke’s account anywhere of shame. Amy Orr-Ewing is the only female apologist I’ve heard of, and a very able one she is. Very well thought out. The three wise men, along with their caravan, and angels gather around the child. The only issue with it is that it has taken away part of my enjoyment of Carol Services. But some fairly decisive evidence in the opposite direction comes from its use elsewhere. What, then, does it mean for the kataluma to have ‘no space’? Jesus was not born behind an inn, in a smelly stable where the donkeys of travelers and other animals were kept. The birth of Christ may be the most famous Bible story of all, reprised annually in nativity scenes across the world each Christmas: Jesus was born in … Maybe it points to the involvement of some of the family? Please see my comment above for December 1 7.18 pm where I recognise the use by Greek and Roman writers. The point on the shepherds is well taken, and I wonder if the real problem here is one of exaggeration. How does that fit in with defining the birth by non-Palestinian understandings? I’m okay with that being a part of the Christmas story. I think we all must give a huge Thanks to Katie being the ‘risky’ one even if she was ignored. This is true throughout the liturgical year, but it is especially painful to me at Christmas. The shame question is I think a cultural/contextual rather than a textual issue (and can be readily seen even today in GB amongst immigrant subcultures such as that in which my wife works). In typical Lucan fashion the good news comes to those who are the last and the least (even though Luke writes to the privileged Theophilus). It is all too easy to read later, rabbinical Judaism back into the NT. The question of where Jesus was born is often answered with a city – Bethlehem. It comes from kataluo meaning to unloose or untie, that is, to unsaddle one’s horses and untie one’s pack. Jesus was not born in a stable. There is reference to this in Matthew’s account, though that is private—but I cannot see the motif of shame in Luke’s narrative. If we’re trying to read our Bibles correctly, surely we notice that the location is never given as Palestine in any of the gospels? But it was renamed Syria Palaestina by the Romans after the Bar Kakhba rebellion in 136. I wish I had the benefit of all of these thoughtful reflections and intriguing questions back then! Broadly speaking, because of Roman use, ‘Palestine’ has been used for the culture of the area, even by Jews. Next. Carlson’s contribution inspired me to try and put together a new narrative. Was Jesus born in a stable or a cave? Thank you for this interesting and thought-provoking article. Could you point to textual evidence of a shame motif in Luke’s account? However, the Bible does not tell us that there were animals or that His birth took place in a stable. Ian’s motives are entirety honourable. If you look down the whole comment list you will find I have engaged at more length with some women, and in only one line or not at all with some men. If we call these ‘Judaean’ houses, it suggests something unique to this province. I would be delighted! The third issue relates to our understanding, or rather ignorance, of (you guessed it) the historical and social context of the story. Ian, I really appreciate you writing about this every year. There was no room to place the Baby in that place. I don’t think “Palestine” is a helpful term historically for the same reason I wouldn’t talk about “Roman England “, and the problem became worse in the 20th century. This scene from the Arena (Scrovegni) Chapel in Padua by the Italian artist Giotto shows Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the Bethlehem stable. It was Colin Chapman who, years ago, first put me on to Ken Bailey’s work. The difference is made clear in this pair of definitions: Kataluma (Gr.) , The term is generally accepted to be a translation of the Biblical name Peleshet (פלשת Pəlésheth, usually transliterated as Philistia). So Joseph and Mary must stay with the family itself, in the main room of the house, and there Mary gives birth. If she was due and ready to pop and katamula was on the upper level, climbing the ladder to get up there was not safe. Watch out for snipers. In today’s language the place where the animals are tied and kept is ‘stable’. Our problem is constantly imposing modern estimations of value on the ancient context. It was small, and there was certainly no room to give birth in it! Another possible explanation i haven’t seen anyone mention was that maybe Mary who was pregnant and ready to burst was unable or advised not to climb up a ladder to the Katamula. Surrounded by farm animals, the Christ child is laid within a manger, a stable that was likely made of wood with hay on the ground. I also think it is clear that discussions in comment all too quickly engage each other in a combative debate between commentators, rather than commenting on the content of the article. After reading these comments it seems to me that the stable is but one manifestation of the grand theological error made by the Latin church, which continues to pervade all the Western church traditions… this desire to turn Jesus into a personal emotional release catharsis for individual shame, rather than God’s redemptive plan for humanity and the world. I am sorry to spoil your preparations for Christmas before the Christmas lights have even gone up—though perhaps it is better to do this now than the week before Christmas, when everything has been carefully prepared. We already know this is Mary’s home town, and it would be usual for the woman to travel to the man’s home town (Joseph’s Bethlehem) to complete the betrothal ceremonies. The Philistines themselves, from whom the name Palestine was derived, had apparently ceased to be a people before 586 BC. Suppose Jesus was born eight months after they married—why would that be a cause of public shame? This is a less scholarly response than most. 11) When they are able to return their initial thought is to return to Bethlehem, but they do not consider it safe so go to Nazareth. The problem though is that if you use the word ‘stable’ in a modern western setting, people will automatically think of a separate wooden building away from the living space. After wading through the comments on how (or how not) to be an Evangelical, I think I’d like to go and worship there….. To be fair to readers of the Bible, misunderstandings tend to come from mistranslations of the original languages into English (and no doubt other modern languages). The connection between the inn and the upper room is significant in this same vein—Jesus the rejected guest is now the host. For some reason I have never been invited again to preach in Advent. In Matt 5.15, Jesus comments: Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. After Mary places the baby in the manger, Luke immediately draws attention to the shepherds, whom I am inclined to think were ‘outsiders’ of some sort even though they also had a significant biblical heritage. If women are more risk averse, then they should be more concerned about the negative consequences of publicly challenging someone who can retaliate. More specifically, Christ was born in a stable, possibly a stable inside a cave. Can you see now why the angels were so happy to be able to tell people that Jesus had been born? How many times can you point out that this is simply not in the text? More broadly, I have often wondered how far our culture’s contemporary concern with risk assessment and risk avoidance reflects not just the power of lawyers and insurance companies but also the greater salience of women in professional and public life. Jerusalem was also renamed then as “Aelia Capitolina” in an attempt to abolish its Jewish character. B. Jesus was born too quickly for Mary to make it back to her room in the inn. It added a real depth and understanding to the story. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judea_(Roman_province), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syria_Palaestina, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0230043, https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/the-presentation-of-jesus-in-luke-2/, https://www.comeuntochrist.org/light-the-world-2020/the-christ-child. Dec 16, 2020 | Hope. ‘I am still not convinced that the idea of a ‘stable’ has no merit.’ I wouldn’t strongly disagree here. I wonder why David sets that aside? The earliest scholar to put it forward was the Spaniard Francisco Sánchez de las Brozas, in 1584. On another one of your posts, a commenter asks “what then is Luke trying to say here?” and insists that he remains unmoved by the idea that Luke wanted simply to point out that he was born in common conditions – in a common room with the animals. I am glad you spoke up for shepherds (or at least sought to correct the historical record).  Later Greek writers such as Polemon and Pausanias also used the term to refer to the same region, which was followed by Roman writers such as Ovid, Tibullus, Pomponius Mela, Pliny the Elder, Dio Chrysostom, Statius, Plutarch as well as Roman Judean writers Philo of Alexandria and Josephus. Hi Peter, This is indeed a difficult situation. Yes, I would agree. In that context, the kataluma where he stayed would not have been an Inn, but a guest room in the house of the family where Joseph and Mary were staying. As a retired progressive Christian preacher, I read the post and every comment, remembering my Advent sermon writings. 10) After they have gone the family flees to Egypt Thus commentators have used it as a cultural reference. Critics of the historical accuracy of the Bible often find what they believe are contradictions among the writers of the gospel accounts because there are differences. But in one sense that makes it the more surprising that Luke doesn’t mention it, and it is clear that he doesn’t offer it as any part of the reason for Jesus being born where he is. If you have valued this post, you can make a single or repeat donation through PayPal: Comments policy: Good comments that engage with the content of the post, and share in respectful debate, can add real value. Everyone knows Jesus was born in a stable and laid in a manger. The answer is “both.” He was born in a cave that was a stable. Firstly, we have no record of any Roman census requiring people return to their ancestral home. I wonder how it was found out … and, primarily, does this refer to Joseph “finding out”? The lack of room sounds negative on the face of it, perhaps in contrast to the reception from the shepherds. He was placed in a manger. It is comforting to me to learn new things (even though I have been hearing bout this since I was in seminalry about 10 years ago). While the Bible doesn’t use the word “stable,” it does say that the baby Jesus was laid in a manger—in other words, a feeding trough, which tells us they were in an area where animals were fed (Luke 2:7). Jesus) was born. My Hungarian isn’t very good…, Oh, you are too modest, Ian …. There is some reason for doing this; the word is used in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint, LXX) to translate a term for a public place of hospitality (eg in Ex 4.24 and 1 Samuel 9.22). France continues: The problem with the stable is that it distances Jesus from the rest of us. Showing 12 coloring pages related to - Jesus Born In Stable. They were non-religious cultural habits. I Google searched “Jesus wasn’t born in a stable” and here i found your writing. A private lodging which is distinct from that in a public inn, i.e. As you point out, it also cleverly keeps Jesus far away from us and on a pedestal, making it both impossible and pointless for us to actually follow Jesus, which was the entire point of the Incarnation (read Athanasius, people!). [Was Amos a sheep-owner shepherd, or a hired shepherd – it depends which word for shepherd we take as more important?] If public comment is risky, then you have to be less risk-averse to comment, and that is a well attested sex difference. How strange that the popular image of the Natvity owes more to the Protevangelium of James than the Gospel of Luke. The actual name that Herodotus used for the region was “Suria he Palaestinè” or ” Palestinian Syria” and this was Romanised in AD 135 as “Syria Palaestina”. The pandokeion had a common refectory and dormitory, with no separate rooms allotted to individual travelers (Firebaugh 1928). I understand your point on this being Joseph’s home town. Second, I think both the cultural and the linguistic evidence is very compelling that there was no stable, no banishment and no distance. I would track the source to three things: traditional elaboration; issues of grammar and meaning; and ignorance of first-century Palestinian culture. To make a one-off or repeat donation to support the blog, use PayPal with the button below: Does it matter that Jesus wasn't born in a stable? It seems harsh to exclude the inn-keeper in the current economic climate, but the birth does seem to be domestic in location. I try to write little stories out of conjectures like yours. He looks in detail at the phrase often translated ‘there was no room for them in the kataluma‘ and argues that the Greek phrase ouch en autois topos does not mean ‘there was no room for them’ but ‘they had no room.’ In other words, he thinks that they did stay in the kataluma, but that it was not big enough for Mary to give birth to Jesus in, so she moved to the main room for the birth, assisted by relatives. This is clearly a reception room in a private home. In the OT shepherd also seems to have a range of meanings, even if the metaphor becomes a positive one for a Ruler. The more important answer is that there was a reason for the humble birth of God’s son–a reason that predates time itself. December 2, 2020. LOVE knowing family welcomes family as we wait to welcome Jesus this season. is surprisingly tricky. Was Jesus born in a stable or a cave? A query: why did so few women get involved in this particular discussion? I’m not familiar with Nolland’s argument, but why would the mou be added to conform Luke but not Matthew? Quite startling. Inn and Guest house/room does not make much difference. Bailey’s explanation of the manger area seems preferable, so if they were ‘banished’ it was only downstairs and they would then still be in the family home. This is a beautiful story retold countless times at Christmas time. I find it impossible to believe that Palestinian Jewish women in the first century would have been any different. These details help us to draw other conclusions. I am afraid I do not know enough to be able to say whether Luke’s primary reader (Theophilus as he is described) was, given his Greek name, actually unlikely to be someone who was culturally Middle Eastern. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0230043. He looks widely at the use of kataluma and in particular notes that in the Septuagint (LXX, the Greek translation of the OT from Hebrew in the second century BC) it translates a wide variety of Hebrew terms for ‘places to stay.’ He thus goes further than Bailey, agreeing that it does not mean inn, but instead that it refers to any place that was used as lodgings. No-one knows where the person on whom the biblical character of Jesus, was born. Make the most charitable construal of the views of others and seek to learn from their perspectives. The term has only very recently been politicised. A similar question on the out of wedlock theme had occurred to me on reading your post (though I have been persuaded by KB’s case for some time). Wasn’t Palestine only recognised at a state in the 20th century? “Most families would live in a single-room house, with a lower compartment for animals to be brought in at night, and either a room at the back for visitors, or space on the roof. To suggest that family members wouldn’t have noticed a month or two difference in the date of conception seems pretty unlikely. As a toponym for the British mandate, Palestine designated both Israel and Transjordan, a very large area. What tireless work, as demonstrated by the multitude of comments you have received above with regard to rejection and shame. However, I’m pretty sure that Judea was more nationalistic, conservative and narrow-minded than Galilee, not the other way round. Perhaps as contrition you’d donate?! The term Palestinian would have had no meaning to the people at the time since it only referred to the Philistines who were long gone by then. It was Judea, “the land of the Jews”. I’m not intending to stir here – I’m genuinely ignorant! How poor and how marginal? (You can stay there too, by booking here. The easy answer is, "In Bethlehem." Thanks for this. It blew my mind, and I wanted to see if this was something more people knew. There is circumstantial evidence linking Hadrian with the name change, but the precise date is not certain and the assertion of some scholars that the name change was intended “to complete the dissociation with Judaea” is disputed. The main character of the play was an innkeeper. In fact, no-one knows who the person on whom the biblical character of Jesus was based even was. Yes of course—but the things we are referring to here (such as hospitality, the importance of family connections, the keeping of animals) were not distinctively *Jewish* practices, but part of the wider culture of that part of the world. A research article looks at this in relation to online research publications, and notes the importance of women’s risk aversion: ‘It could be that gender shapes scholars’ weighing of the relative risks and rewards associated with commenting. I will continue to pursue this annual tradition, since it is actually rather important. Yes, it is Jesus. He also denies the view that Jesus was born in a stable or barn. Ian Paul: theologian, author, speaker, academic consultant. My mind is swimming with all of the implications this information now provides for preaching Jesus birth. Is thee a female Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett or Sam Harris out there? Jesus was born in a stable, a real stable, not the bright, airy portico which Christian painters have created for the Son of David, as if ashamed that their God should have lain down in poverty and dirt. It is Judea, right? 12,16. As a priest, Z knows about angels appearing and perhaps something can be sorted out with Joseph but anyway it would be safer. I shared your article on Facebook, and a lot of my Hungarian friends told me that they have difficulties understanding English. Any problems? Paul himself first wrote about the misinterpretation of the word in 2013, and re-posted his theory this year “because I have been struck again how often the message of Christmas is summed up as ‘Jesus was born in a stable’, both within and beyond the church.”. We don’t talk about “English houses” in the first to fourth centuries because the land (including Wales and parts of southern Scotland) was called the Province of Britannia (with political subdivisions, as Iudaea had). The mention of a ‘manger’ in Luke’s nativity story, suggesting animals, led mediaeval illustrators to depict the ox and the ass recognising the baby Jesus, so the natural setting was a stable—after all, isn’t that where animals are kept? I think the question is whether it was well known that she had an apparently illegitimate child. Once more: Jesus was not born in a stable. But one last question remains. I accept that it was probably part of the house (as you suggest) and that the ‘inn’ was not a public hotel in the way tradition suggests (though it is interesting that the ESV continues to use the word ‘inn’). Hi Ian, Thanks for the blog. To make a big issue of it to earn some attention has become a way to make money now-a-days. There is a hint of this in John’s gospel, where Jesus is called Mary’s son (rather than Joseph’s), but I am not sure I can find much hint of the shame motif in Luke’s narrative. November 30, 2020 by Ian Paul. There was no place or people group with that name. Tweets at @psephizo. That is because of your modern eyes seeing what you want to see. I wish it were not so, but there we are. The word was not applied to the region until over 100 years after Yeshua’s death and resurrection, and then meant the land of the Jews. But if you are going to claim there is a pattern here, you are going to have to demonstrate it a bit more convincingly. Mary is laying Jesus in the manger, which is the place that holds the food for donkeys and other animals to eat. Although I have used the words “Palestine ” and “Palestinian” as geographical references before, I think this is probably wrong now. Ian nor the rest of the men on this blog don’t even see the pattern. The issue of grammar and meaning, and perhaps the heart of the matter, is the translation of the Greek word kataluma in Luke 2.7. Yes, it is, if you think that what people need to hear is the actual story of Scripture, rather than the tradition of a children’s play. It isn’t. ANE social structure had more in common with the modern day intensely protective Arab culture for women which requires burkhas and total isolation to protect them from shameful interactions with men, than with present day western mores that take such interactions and the potential for intimate relationships as normal. 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